A single hookbait caught this giant barbel – Dean Macey

"It’s a very close match to the best fish I’ve ever caught"

A single hookbait caught this giant barbel - Dean Macey

by Angling Times |

“A WIDE range of tactics can score for barbel, but when faced with a small, low-stock river, combining stealth and single hookbaits resulted in my dream fish.

“When I banked a 16lb 2oz barbel a couple of years ago, I thought that would be my PB for life. So, when I got the chance to fish a stretch of a southern river where there’s the possibility of an even larger specimen, I jumped at the chance.

“These monster fish don’t last forever, so you have to put yourself in a position to catch them while they’re still around.

“The stretch is narrow, intimate and not prolifically stocked, so everything has to be right. Stealth is the best option, as you can’t afford to spook what could be the only fish in your swim.

“Casts have to be bang on the money first time and, where possible, just laying the rig in very quietly is a far better option. I tackled up with 12lb Touchdown mainline, 2.25lb tc Infinity barbel rods, Supernatural braid, and size 10 Guru MWG hooks. Such strong gear is necessary for these massive fish that put maximum strain on it.

Simple but strong
Simple but strong

“Perhaps my biggest change was to my baiting approach – no loosefeed at all and no prebaiting. The water is quite cold, so I don’t know if they’re feeding, but if they’re up for it I want my hookbait to be their only option. At the very most, I’d possibly nick on a small 50p-sized PVA bag to straighten the hooklink, loaded with six Elipse pellets and a crushed Active-8 boilie to match my hookbait.

Hookbaits glugged the season before, giving them a gravy-like coating
Hookbaits glugged the season before, giving them a gravy-like coating

“I’m not swim-hopping on this stretch – it’s a case of putting the hookbait in and waiting, sometimes as long as three hours, between casts.

“On my latest trip I found the river running low and clear, and I wasn’t that confident. But, as the cloud cover increased, my confidence grew. Suddenly, I had a strange twitchy knock on the rod-tip, which then slowly went round. I struck, but connected with nothing.

“Thinking that I’d blown it, I laid the rig back in and within half-an-hour it slowly pulled round again, but this time the culprit was hooked!

“For the first 20 seconds of the fight I thought it was a big chub, before a sudden burst downriver told me it was certainly a barbel! I’ve been lucky to catch a lot of big barbel and I’ve always been able to get their heads up, but this one was different. I wondered if the line also had a massive branch attached to it!

“Eventually I got the fish to the surface, and when I caught a glimpse of it, I began thinking ‘I wish I had stronger gear on’! Once in the net, I knew instantly it was my PB. It was ‘the one’!

A dream barbel PB of 17lb 8oz for Dean Macey from a southern river
A dream barbel PB of 17lb 8oz for Dean Macey from a southern river

“At 17lb 8oz it’s a very close match to the best fish I’ve ever caught – an 8lb-plus chub.

“I didn’t cast again, I just lapped it up. The fish was pristine, so wide and so deep.

“There’s a whole lot of work and a whole lot of luck that goes into fishing, but by thinking about my approach and tailoring it to the stretch I was on, my dream fish slipped up.

“Give it a go before the end of the season. I can tell you, very little beats the buzz of small-river barbel fishing!”

The fish was pristine, so wide and so deep
The fish was pristine, so wide and so deep
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